BURNABY — Aaron Mitchell played high school basketball in the early-to-mid 1990s, an era many call one of the golden ages of the game in our province.
And now, over a decade into his career as the head varsity boys basketball coach at Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate, he appreciates more and more how one of the province’s true ‘granddaddy’ invitationals has been able to retain its uniqueness in the changing face of B.C. high school athletics.
On Wednesday, STMC’s annual Chancellor tournament, the province’s only 16-team, four-day boys invitational (full draw below), returns for yet another run.
And while Mitchell admits it would be an easier proposition for all concerned if it were day shorter, he remains passionate that there is something inherently more important about preserving the tournament’s tradition of each team playing one game per day over a span of four straight days.
“I believe in this (format) because as a coach, you’re ultimate goal is to qualify for the provincials, and that is what the provincials are,” says Mitchell of the fact that the Chancellor is the only in-season invitational which mimics the format of the Telus B.C. championship draw, both in its game-a-day schedule and its unique morning-to-evening tip-off times.
“Yeah, I feel bad about scheduling someone for that 8:30 a.m. game, but you might get that same draw at the provincials,” he beings. “Or maybe you get the 1:45 (p.m.) draw. Are you ready? Are you hydrated?
“So no, we haven’t talked about cutting a day,” he continues. “But there are challenges. The students need to really communicate with their teachers (due to the potential of missing up to an extra day of school) and learn to use their time management skills more effectively. And we’re seeing a lot of coaches asking for specific times (to play) because there are a lot more volunteers (outside of the schools) coaching teams these days.”
None of these issues are news flashes, but they are reasons why, each season, it takes more and more effort to preserve traditions like the Chancellor.
Another part of the Chancellor that Mitchell feels is important to maintain?
Since the addition of a fourth tier to the B.C. senior boys hierarchy a few seasons back, the Chancellor has become a landing spot for some of the province’s best AAA programs, while the majority of the best AAAA programs play this same weekend at Terry Fox’s Legal Beagle in Port Coquitlam.
Make no mistake about it, Mitchell is happy to have six of the top seven teams from the last AAA B.C. poll taking part in his event, including No. 1 Byrne Creek of Burnaby No. 2 R.A. McMath of Richmond and No. 3 Sir Charles Tupper of Vancouver.
But to him, it’s just as important to maintain connections and honour loyalty within a tight-knit hoops community.
“It’s kind of nice that it’s come together in this way,” says Mitchell of AAA’s cream being represented in the draw, “but we’re not necessarily always searching out the best teams each year. We look at it from a loyalty standpoint as well. We want good coaches from good, solid programs. We know this is cyclical. A part of spending 14 hours-a-day in the gym (during the tournament) is spending it with good people, coaches you like.”
To Mitchell, one of those coaches is Ken Dockendorf, one of the longest-serving head coaches in provincial history.
At high noon Wednesday, the young, unranked Knights will get all they can handle from Dockendorf’s Maple Ridge Ramblers in a contest that is sure to be defined by the visitor’s ability to play shutdown defence.
“I told my guys that we are not going to schedule a cupcake in our opener, and win by 60 (points) in front of our school,” begins Mitchell. “We want a competitive game and we know we’re going to get that from Doc’s teams. He’ll slow it down, they’ll execute like crazy and it’s going to be first team to 22 (points) winning it. I hate it.”
He might, just a little bit. But he also loves it.
Through its own merits, B.C. high school basketball has always been great, but when you add tradition to the mix it can’t be beat.
(all games at Burnaby-St. Thomas More Collegiate)
TOP SIDE DRAW
8:30 a.m. — No. 6 Argyle vs. No. 7 G.W. Graham
10:15 a.m. — No. 2 R.A. McMath vs. Robert Bateman
12 p.m. — Maple Ridge vs. St. Thomas More
1:45 p.m. — No. 3 Sir Charles Tupper vs. McNair
BOTTOM SIDE DRAW
3:30 p.m. — No. 1 Byrne Creek vs. Brookswood
5:15 p.m. — Fleetwood Park vs. Steveston-London
7 p.m. — Centennial vs. No. 5 North Delta
8:45 p.m. — Vernon vs. Rick Hansen
3:30 p.m. — Quad A
5:15 p.m. — Quad C
7 p.m. — Quad B
8:45 p.m. — Quad D
7 p.m. — Upper half draw
8:45 p.m. — Lower half draw
4:15 p.m. — 3rd-4th place
6 p.m. — championship final
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